Relaxing into Christmas. Not us. Here are the latest highlights from another week in the working life of the @uniofbath Digital team:
- Kelvin, Paul and the Toms worked on setting up, running and closing up the 2013 Winter Award Ceremonies pages
- Kelvin and Tom T battled with configuration of the test version of our CMS to make it like the current live CMS workplace server. Kelvin started applying fixes to the live CMS to ready porting of data to new CMS server and Tom started testing replication of new CMS to a test node
- Dan and Paul tested a prototype version of a remodelled /students landing page, off the back of which they did further iteration to layout and use of colours to achieve more consistency with other pages designed for students
- Paul made important amends to Accommodation and Fees pages that reflected changes in government policy on funding
- Paul, Liam and Ross produced a page setting out the University of Bath's approach to MOOCs and highlighting two courses we are running on Futurelearn
- Liam and Ross produced a protoype of a new landing page for overseas users of bath.ac.uk, which Ross demoed to the Internationalisation team
- Ross posted a summary of the University of Bath digital strategy here on this very blog
- Miles and Richard proof-read and fixed all links in the upcoming undergraduate printed prospectus
- Miles made a range of amendments to arts, student enterprise and accommodation pages to reflect more recent information in undergraduate prospectus
- Justin published time-sensitive information about Pensions Personal Allowances and, continuing in that vein, he started building the new Finance section of our site. So he's now acting as our resident independent finance adviser; he does mortgages and everything.
While we aren't putting up our feet for Christmas just yet, the team did step away from their computers for a few hours to visit a local eatery and raise a glass of mead to toast one another's hard work and successes over the past 12 months.
There were no injuries and everyone genuinely enjoyed themselves. Here's photographic evidence and, if we all look a little preoccupied, it's because we are all busy nomming.
In recent posts, we've alluded to there being a University of Bath digital strategy. It's the product of analysis and interviews conducted over the last 3 months, and we have begun taking that strategy around campus to introduce our colleagues to its contents and to get their feedback and support.
Our strategic goal
The University's goal is to have a world-class digital domain developed around the needs of its users. This digital goal is framed by the actions set out in the University of Bath's strategy for 2013 - 2016.
Users of our digital domain include students, academics, corporate staff, businesses and the public. While the majority of our digital users are here on campus, we receive high volumes of traffic from elsewhere in the UK and increasingly overseas. Our website serves in part as a marketing channel but our users are mostly task-driven and view our digital domain as a collection of services they use to get things done.
We want the people who use our site and associated digital channels to regard them as informative, trustworthy and useful. We believe that the manner in which we meet our users' needs sets us apart from our peers and when we perform well it has a positive impact on the reputation and visibility of our research and teaching.
Here are the highlights from another 5 days in the working life of the @uniofbath Digital team:
- Paul added Honourary Graduates and news copy to ceremonies site ahead of next week's Winter Graduations; the pages will go live on Monday.
- Paul and Dan (more about him later) went to the Student Union and conducted guerrilla testing of the current landing page for students. This testing dug further into some intriguing trends unearthed through analytics and click tracking. The guys came back with some great user insights and paper prototypes of an alternative bath.ac.uk/students are now in production.
- Phil and Justin finished planning and initiating the first sprint on refreshing the Finance section; Finance being the second of our 3 trailblazers in the Professional Services transformation programme.
- Phil helped out on support desk because Chris was poorly. There were 87 tickets into support with 61 being resolved. 20% for tickets needed more information before they were resolved so please include as much detail as possible.
- Liam headed over to visit his design buddies in IDPS for a productive chat about options for a new typeface that the University might use in both digital and print.
- Tom Natt and Liam enabled embedding of videos on subject pages and student profiles in our undergraduate prospectus.
- Tom also started releasing applications to our new infrastructure, which he also set out in a presentation and post called 'Doing the hard work behind the code' which is about continuous integration and deployment.
- Kelvin and Tom Trentham started work on migrating our CMS to a more stable infrastructure, which will bring an end to those odd user log-outs.
- Miles had a busy week across a number of research-related areas. He published a new feature on a citation-based antibody search engine, delivered web writing and CMS training to the Public Engagement team and prepared another specialist presentation for researchers on how to write about their work online.
- Miles and Rich met with our Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment to discuss changes to their page templates and ways in which we can promote their excellent series of seminars and conferences.
- Ross enjoyed presenting our digital strategy for 2014/15 to our colleagues in Corporate Communications, Public Engagement and IDPS. He got good questions back and was pleased with the enthusiastic response to what is quite an ambitious plan for the next 24 months.
All great stuff but of course the highlight of the week was the arrival of Dan Dineen as the latest member of our team.
This is Dan:
Dan is a user experience designer of some repute. He was already well-known to the team and we are over the moon that he has joined our crew.
Dan has been impressing us with his UX Fu and has been leading by example by organising, conducting and presenting user testing all within his first week.
So, welcome Dan! Keep up the good work. No pressure.
The other day, Ross wrote about the Digital team's delivery principles. I have been working on modernising our development infrastructure for the last few weeks and our fortnightly open house Show & Tell meeting (part of #6 - "work in the open") gave a great opportunity to talk about why this work is really important.
Behold the presentation:
Yes, I used Prezi - don't judge me.
Principle #5 is "do the hard work behind the code":
The success of a great digital product or service doesn't rest entirely on what appears on screen. To deliver accurate, pleasing and sustainable products and services means investing in simple instructions, efficient workflows, accurate monitoring and great support.
In the above presentation three of the steps deal with testing and deployment to servers. This can be cumbersome and time consuming and there isn't a visible benefit for our users. Reducing the processes to a series of clicks saves developers time and mental energy which allows them to focus on developing.
It has taken quite a bit of effort to get everything behaving as we wanted. Building Play applications, downloading dependencies through the corporate firewall, running the tests, error-free deployment to load balanced Tomcat servers - all of these simple tasks become much more difficult when asking a server to do them. Finally though, we have reached a position where Bamboo is doing all of this for us automatically (or on demand in the case of deployment) and so the focus of developing our applications is back on the product rather than the infrastructure supporting it.
Continuous integration and deployment tackled. Now to write some new applications!
As people across the nation look forward to shaving off their Movember efforts, we here at the mostly clean-shaven Digital Towers have had a typically busy week, involving the following:
- Responsive has been the word of the week. Tom T and Kelvin finished the sprint for making a Foundation 4-based version of the V3 template, making the pages, well, responsive
- This saw pages in the About site being pushed in this template. This includes the Semester Dates page, one of our top five most visited pages on mobile and tablet devices
- Next up in our sprint schedule, Justin laid the groundwork for the first sprint on the redevelopment of the Finance website, the second of our Professional Services projects
- Liam updated 102 images to promote the key selling points of each of our courses in the online undergraduate prospectus
- Liam also replaced existing university logo with a retina-friendly scalable vector graphic site-wide. He also updated the University footer
- Justin updated the Campus investments website with the latest details on our major construction projects
- Miles wrote draft research features on: Simplifying the search for successful antibodies, How blind people see the world and Pain Management
- The team held a retrospective for November's Let's Talk event – a valuable session that will inform our processes and thinking for future events
- In a typically busy week for support, Chris received 81 tickets into support this week and of those, 75 were resolved. The top query was regarding technical issues with the CMS mainly due to the network outage earlier this week
- As part of ongoing work into constructing a Digital editorial calendar, I conducted interviews with several staff across the university - with the particular aim of getting my head around the labyrinth world of Postgraduate Research
- With it now being less than a month until Christmas, and the sounds of Slade and Wizzard becoming inescapable, Tom T and I updated the annual University of Bath Christmas cards
- And on a continuing festive note, we booked the staff Christmas meal – now to buy a 12-pack of Christmas crackers
Geek treat of the week
And finally, we welcomed a new addition to the team. Meet Miley Pi-rus:
Miley Pi-rus, the latest member of Digital
For those not in the know (ie me before this very afternoon), a Raspberry Pi is a tiny single-board computer that sells for £16 developed to promote basic computer science in schools. We are using this to power our digital display (it's not a telly) to provide us with status monitoring and real time stats of the website. It took a while to get it set up properly, but it is finally twerking.
Another exciting week in Digital Towers has flown by, but this one saw some good forward-looking work.
Kicking the week off, Ross wrote about our new delivery principles and took both these and our long-term plan of work to our colleagues in Computing Services to see how we can collaborate to improve overall product delivery.
In a similar vein, Tom Natt's been working directly with Computing Services to upgrade segments of our application hosting and deployment infrastructure to make sure that our stack is at the latest versions, and that we're not wasting effort by duplicating work that can be done by our tools. This has meant some simplification of our software build process by using Bamboo more effectively.
A big chunk of this week for Ross, Rich and Miles has been interviewing for the three vacant posts in our content team, and we're hopeful that we'll soon have the problem of working out where they can sit!
There were some serious IT problems this week, but despite this, the support requests just kept on coming, with Chris dealing with 77 different requests since Monday, and getting 73 of them resolved whilst all the time making sure that our CMS training courses are up to date.
Thanks to hard work by Tom Trentham and Kelv over the past fortnight we're close to having a version of our CMS template which is responsive - hopefully you'll hear more about that next week, but whilst you're waiting, you should definitely read Miles' new research feature on how DC electricity could help strengthen India's power network.